We’ve all been tempted to set our characters in clearings beneath azure skies. And then, hopefully, after clearer heads prevail, we recognize the overly ornate, sickly sweet and thick text and get back to the real writing.
For Memorial Day, or whichever day you’re reading this, SK and I decided to post our original team up from A to Z back in 2014. This was our take on and attempt at Purple Prose. Not only did it turn out to be fun drenching our work in purple syrup, but it created an enduring friendship that created WritersAfter Dark.
So here is the original post:
The gift of language allows for a depth of sharing unique to humans. Unfortunately, as our language skills improve they also become highly susceptible to exaggeration and hyperbole.
What child hasn’t claimed they are “dying of hunger” or that “broccoli makes them puke.”
Such grand proclamations top-out in the teenage years, where we trade off for language shortcuts like YOLO and other short descriptive terms that better describe to the world how “hip-cool-bad-rad-phat” we are.
Writers often fall back on such things for much the same reason—to showcase their talented use of words. Often the result is purple prose, the original purpose of which was to demonstrate royalty by sewing purple patches on one’s wardrobe (purple dye was expensive).
Purple prose is the written equivalent of “putting on airs.” Trying to look important, or smart or at a higher station.
I don’t like it, and I don’t use it—well unless it’s a poem. But I also don’t live my life trying to impress my importance upon others. I prefer to let my actions speak for themselves. If your house or car or paycheck or clothes are better than mine—good for you…if I’m not raising you or sleeping with you, I don’t much care how you live your life.
My writing is the same. I’m my worst critic. I never think the work is good enough. I’m not going to confound those issues with useless flowery words and sentences to impress upon you that I have a dictionary or that I took a word or line from the literary greats like Stephanie Meyers.
My friend, a fellow blogger, and author, S.K Anthony, feels much as I do on the topic. When I asked her if she wanted to co-host the letter P, her response demonstrates her true literary talent, and I quote:
Love the idea…oh, I’m sorry…My silken, sun-kissed tendrils made of shiny shoe lace framed around my perfect heart-shaped face as my eyes sparkled. My ruby red lips curled up as I engrossed myself in your idea. My head assented briefly as I unequivocally said: YES.
So just for fun—because every writer is guilty of it occasionally—we each selected a short section from our books and converted it into the worst purple prose we could. And of course, ladies first:
SK: Raymond, thanks for having me over on your blog for your “P” post ;) I completely agreed with everything you said, but I’ll admit I had way too much fun purple prosing. Now, I’m not sure I want to give it up. So, when people start throwing tomatoes my way I’ll direct them here. Deal? Okay, here goes:
Kinetic - Actual:
Nick had taken advantage of all the knowledge he’d gained when he was part of the Org. He was guilty of kidnapping, attacking government buildings, killing a lot of people, and was considered enemy number one for all Luminaries. But while I had no respect left for him, I couldn’t hate him. Not like the rest of them did. This was the man with whom I had exchanged wedding vows, the man who was once my whole world, and he had to be taken down. But he still had enough power over me that I'd let him go. Stupid heart. I never wanted to be one of those girls again, the ones who live for love or die for it. No, love no longer had any place in my empty chest.
The problem was, I'd found my heart staring at me through one eye, and I'd lost my shit.
Kinetic - Purple Prose:
Gentleman Nick relished the appropriation of advantage over the knowledge he’d gained when once part ours. Responsible for hijacking civilians, sabotaging infrastructures of our regime, and copious amount of massacres, gentleman Nick had now become enemy numerus unum for all Luminaries. While I no longer held admiration for gentleman Nick, I could not bring myself to abhor him. Not in comparison to those who surrounded me. This was the gentleman to whom I vowed myself when marriage came upon us, the gentleman who once held my heart literally in his virile hands, and I must now plot his expiration. I must, however, admit the trouble I’m caused by the fact that gentleman Nick holds enough power over me that I’d allowed his escape. Injudicious heart. I wish to never again be one of those Mademoiselles who falls prey to love, those poor lasses whose sole existences are to live for love or perish for it. No! NO says I! Love can no longer reside in my hollowed chest.
The setback I encountered however was: I'd catch a glimpse of my heart contemplating me through one of his eyes, and I'd lost my unflappable beliefs.
Mine from The Devil’s Hour - Actual
A couple of years back I planted three Benjamin ficus trees on the property line to provide a little privacy from the road. They were only two feet high when I purchased them, and I underestimated their growth and planted them too close together. Now the trees were monsters and Jeff, and I struggled to get through the intertwined branches to reach the small field that led to the street.
The Devil’s Hour - Purple Prose
A couple of years earlier I planted three Benjamin ficus trees along the pristine border of my ancestral home. The Dartmouth green leaves shielded my domicile from the unwanted attention of motorists whom traveled along the asphalt lane beyond. I underestimated the tenacity of those petite saplings, and their proximity became disastrous. The branches and tendrils intertwined in a slow dance of lush leaves and knotted limbs, and passage through might only be obtained at the expense of much perspiration and bloodshed. Jeff and I struggled with the rapacious arms until, enfeebled by our battle, we came upon our destination in the barren bronze scrub of the clearing.